Dog Adoption Guide: Tips on Bringing Your Rescue Dog Home



Congratulations on adopting a new family member! Giving a dog a second chance in life is a wonderful and rewarding experience, and we applaud you for getting a rescue dog.

This article aims to help you make the entry of your newly adopted dog into your life and your home as easy as possible.


What to expect

In most cases, you won’t know much about your rescue dog’s history. Over the next few weeks and months, you will discover many things about your new rescue dog – what his likes and dislikes are, what he thrives on and what he fears. You will learn how well socialised your dog is, and what his level of training is. Be patient with your rescue dog and yourself on this journey.

Be aware that a rescue dog’s behaviour in a shelter can often be quite different from a home environment. Spending a longer time in a shelter (two months plus) can significantly influence a dog’s behaviour.

The following guide will help you through the first few weeks of your new family member’s arrival.


Preparing your home before your dog’s arrival


Copyright: vilevi / 123RF Stock Photo


Take some time to prepare for your dog’s arrival. To make the transition from shelter to home as easy as possible, it is important to provide your new dog with as much structure as possible and be clear about certain things before your rescue dog arrives.

  • Get clarity where the dog will and will not be allowed. Are bedrooms a no-go zone? Then close the doors. Is the dog not allowed in a certain area of the house? Then use a baby gate to fence off the area.
  • Will your dog sleep in a designated area (laundry, crate etc)? Set it up from day one.
  • Set up your dog’s ‘feeding station’ – think about where his food and water will go.
  • Make sure your fencing is secure if you have an outdoor area. Some dogs are natural born Houdinis, and others are strong enough to break through unstable fencing.
  • Clearly define the family/household responsibilities: who walks the dog, who is responsible for feeding and who will be the one training the rescued dog in your house.
  • Get all necessary items, including an ID tag, collar, a 6-foot long leash, food, water and food bowls, a crate and bedding – and of course some toys. If you find your rescue dog is struggling a bit with settling into his new environment, an Adaptil collar or spray can help calm him down. Ask your vet for advice on how to use it.
  • We recommend you get a treat pouch or a bumbag to carry treats on you any time your dog is around you – so you can reward him on the spot.
    Did you know that dogs need to be rewarded in under 3 seconds to be able to know what they are getting rewarded for?
  • Doggy proof your house: put loose cables away, store household cleaners and medication out of reach; remove plants, rugs and breakables etc. Move anything to you don’t want your dog to get hold of out of the way.

The day you pick up your rescue dog

  • Ideally, plan to bring your dog home at a time when you can spend a few days at home. This will help with settling as well as giving you a chance to supervise your dog as he learns the house rules. Maybe choose a long weekend, or take a week off work.
  • Think about how to transport your dog home – consider bringing someone else along to drive the car while you comfort your dog. Put your dog in a harness or a crate to keep it safe and restrain it so it can settle. If you are on your own, bring a nice chew treat like a bully stick or a pig ear to help your dog enjoy the drive.
  • When you get the dog in your car, let him sniff first and get familiar with this new area before you take off.
  • Before taking the dog into your house, take him for a walk for around 30-40 minutes. This will not only burn off some energy, it will also give you time to bond and the opportunity to establish a line of communication. Have some treats on you to tell your new friend when he has done something well. This will also very quickly make you his best friend! ?
  • Ideally you want to make sure your dog does a wee before you get back home. It should help to avoid immediate accidents once you get home.
  • Ask the shelter/foster carer about the rescue dog’s feeding schedule and replicate that for the first few days to avoid gastric stress. If you would like to change the brand of food, do it slowly over the course of a week. Dogs have more sensitive stomachs than humans and depending on your dog’s nature moving to a new home can be stressful for them.




Entering your house

  • When you bring your new dog into your house for the first time, keep him on the leash while you show him around, both inside and outside. Let him sniff and take things slowly, at his own pace. Keeping your dog on leash will provide guidance and helps you to intervene before any accidents happen.
  • Show your dog where the places for water and food are, and have a tiny bit of food in the bowl.
  • After a stroll inside his new home, take your rescue dog outside for a wee. After all these new impressions, your dog may have to do a bit of business. Reward your dog if an when he urinates outside.
  • If you have other pets at home, make sure the introduction is done safely and respectful for all animals. Tips on how to introduce pets.
  • Moving is stressful for humans and dogs: Wait until your dog has settled in before inviting strangers over, maybe wait one or two days. Also take it easy with introducing children to your dog, you don’t want the animal to be overwhelmed. The greeting should be calm and without a lot of excitement (we know, that can be a challenge).

Important tips for the first few days

  • If you can’t supervise your dog, limit his access to one room or area. This will help managing your new family member and avoid accidents of all kinds.
  • Leaving your dog by itself for short periods of time will also help to avoid separation anxiety. Leave your dog alone when you go to get the mail or take the bins outside, and then increase it to leaving him alone when you have to go out for a short interval. Gradually increase the alone time. If your dog whines or barks, wait for him to be quiet before you return inside.
  • House training accidents can happen. Even if your dog may have been house trained before, being in the shelter may have taught the dog something else. Be prepared and expect accidents.
    Here are some tips how to toilet train your dog.
  • Don’t leave your new rescue dog alone with your existing pets. You will need to monitor and control their interactions for a period of time before leaving them alone. Tips on how to introduce pets.
  • You may not know what your dog’s previous experiences were. Be patient and forgiving if things don’t go the way you would have expected. Your rescue dog may not be socialised to certain things and be scared of them. Your rescue dog may also not be taught something, or commands he has learnt may be different to the ones you use.
  • Establish a routine and start your schedule of feeding, play times, training, toileting, walks etc from the first day. Dogs like it when they are given structure. It’s best is to start reward-based training with your rescue dog right from the start – training is a fun way to bond and establish a line of communication.


The next few weeks

  • People often find that the first few weeks are like a honeymoon period where you get to know each other. Your rescue dog’s true personality may not show itself until later. Make sure you provide as much structure as possible during this time, follow the schedule you established so that your dog knows what you expect from him and what he can expect from you.
  • Once your rescue dog has all necessary vaccinations, you may start taking him out to a dog park or to group training classes. Find out more on the dog vaccination schedules and costs in our guide here. Watch your dog’s body language closely and make sure he is having a good time. You don’t want your dog to be fearful or a dog park bully. Consider just starting off with a leashed walk.
  • If you come across any behavioural issues you are not familiar with, seek help from a dog trainer or behaviourist.
  • Start having your friends and family over to pay low-key visits. These should be short and calm, without a lot of excitement. This way your dog will get used to meeting strangers in your house and get to know new people.


In a nutshell

Adopting a rescue dog can be a very rewarding experience and create a bond for life. In most cases you won’t know much about the history of your dog and the first few weeks are often a honeymoon period in which you will get to know each other. Take it slowly and go easy on yourself and your new furry friend. Try and keep track of any changes that come up, and if you find that any issues arise, do not hesitate to ask a professional for help.

Please note, any pet insurance advice provided is general only. Refer to the applicable Product Disclosure Statement for details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover.

*Please note, any pet insurance advice provided is general only. Refer to the applicable Product Disclosure Statement for details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover.